A website by Patrick White

Citizen of the Internet

For awhile now, I’ve used the “Internet person” and “Internet people” to talk about, well, “Internet people”, of which I consider myself one. It’s a kludgy term, and, until recently, I don’t think I could articulate what I meant by it. But I knew I was one and these “Internet people” were my people.

In thinking the concept through, I’ve decided that a better term is “Citizen of the Internet” and an accurate and concise definition would be someone for whom the primary institution around which their life is organized is not a church, a school, or a workplace, but the Internet.

This nicely distinguishes Citizens of the Internet from people who merely spend a lot of time online (something that is exceedingly common among Citizens of the Internet, but not strictly necessary) as well as digital natives who are deeply embedded in the Internet but for whom the Internet is largely adjunct to a real life institution such as a school.

Citizens of the Internet are also not, necessarily, “digital citizens”, the term that’s been thrown around to talk about people who feel more connected to the Internet than to any particular national identify, often due to having lived or been raised abroad. Nor are Citizens of the Internet necessarily “digital nomads”, individuals who use digital work arrangements to not live in any fixed place and often to travel internationally.

In fact, I find Citizens of the Internet are often fairly settled in a specific physical place, and it’s not uncommon for the specific place to be relatively rural. That’s my background, and the connection seems to be that these Citizens of the Internet originally turned to the Internet because of none of the limited social institutions available to them served their needs.